receives an incredible amount of e-mail concerning the
Donnellys. Many of the letters received ask the same questions over and
over again, so this page is devoted to answering those Frequently
Asked Questions. These answers are to the
Webmaster's best knowledge. However, should these facts need revision
any kind, any additional information or corrections will be greatly
we get e-mail from visitors wondering why this web site is called The Official Donnelly Home Page. What's so Official about it? Hopefully, the
following answers that question.
What's So Official
About Being Official?
this web site was created in 1997, it was the only
site on the
Internet about the Donnellys. Hence its name. Since then, it has earned its name 'Official'
from the recognition it has received from The History Channel, Canadian
libraries, and public schools where the site is used in the classroom
as a reliable source for Donnelly information.
is the only site that offers everything to do with the Donnellys from
historical information and photographs, to books, music and videos.
It's the only site where a Donnelly enthusiast can go to find out what
books have been written on the subject, what movies have been made,
what songs recorded, and where the Donnelly
is located. Enthusiasts can also buy Donnelly souvenirs here, find
links to other Donnelly related web sites, and even join a Donnelly fan
The site is also a vehicle for Donnelly authors to promote their books.
Due to the tremendous success of the web site, Donnelly authors have a
target market to sell their books to, and a bigger audience. Many
readers would be unaware of these great works, especially the newer
books, if it weren't for this web site promoting them.
So, that's why this is The Official Donnelly
Home Page. It offers something for everyone who is interested
in the Donnellys. If it's about the Donnellys, you'll most likely find
it here. As for the history itself, you will find only the very basics
of the story here. For the whole story, there are several books written
by Donnelly experts that we highly recommend. You can order them here
Check out the Donnelly
And finally... this web site was created for
interested in the Donnellys and finding out more about them. Whether
you're a Donnelly enthusiast, or someone learning about the Donnellys
for the first time, it is our hope that you will find the information
on this web site useful. And that you will encourage others to drop by
for a visit.
are the Donnellys called the Black Donnellys?
people believe the Donnellys were Black or African Canadians, while
others believe they got the name because they were evil with blackened
hearts. Neither is true. There are a few possible explanations for the 'Black' Donnelly designation... the
historical political origins of the term, and two other colloquial
meanings of the word 'black'.The
historical political origins date back to the Seventeenth Century. From
1695 until the passage of the Emancipation Act of 1829, which returned to the Roman Catholic Irish some of their
rights, the Roman Catholic Irish were virtually serfs in their own
country. The Irish and English Protestant minority had denied them even
the right to own their own land, the land of their forefathers.
Instead, they had to lease land from absentee English and Protestant
awful state of affairs was at its worst in Tipperary, where James and
Johannah Donnelly came from. Ultimately, even the right to 'common'
areas of land was taken away from them when the common areas were
enclosed and taken over by the landowners. The Roman Catholic
residents' poverty became even more abject.
the mid-seventeen hundreds, a secret society called the 'Whiteboys'
was formed. Its primary function was to exact revenge on the hated
landowners, at first by levelling the fences that enclosed the one-time
common lands, but eventually retribution was visited on whomever they
felt had betrayed them, or worked to undermine their efforts. The
Whiteboys were joined by a few other similar secret organizations.
worst acts of their sometimes murderous retribution were reserved,
though, for those of their own faith who were seen as traitors for
collaborating with the Protestant rulers or defecting from the Whiteboy
cause. Those who refuted the Whiteboys or retreated from membership in
their cause, suffered mutilation of their livestock, arson and
sometimes even death.
Tipperary Roman Catholics refused to join or sanction the workings of
the violent Whiteboy movement. These families were among the oldest and
most prominent of Roman Catholic families, including such names as
Keefe, Nangle, and a family of one-time chieftans, the Donnellys.
the massive Irish immigration to the new world in the early 1800s, most
of the time the Irish were easily assimilated into the mixing pot of
immigrant cultures, but not in Biddulph Township, Ontario. In Biddulph,
with its heavily Irish population, there was a perfect balance of
Whiteboys and their Roman Catholic opposers, known in Biddulph as 'Blackfeet'.
Miller, author of 'The
Donnellys Must Die',
speculates that the obvious contrast of the name with the Whiteboys was
no accidentt, and that it didn't take long for old grievances to be
remembered, and the feud to regain its place in the minds and hearts of
the Irish immigrants. Imported from Ireland, along with the old
quarrel, was the violence, arson and mutilation of animals as a way of
is the political explanation of why the Donnellys have been
memorializes as the 'Black'
Donnellys. Apparently, James Donnelly made no secret of the fact that
he followed the family history of opposing the Whiteboy ways. He
patronized both Catholic and Protestant establishments, in defiance of
Whiteboy habits, going so far, soon after he arrived in Biddulph
Township, as to contribute to the building of St. Jame's Anglican
this is the legitimate explanation of how the Black Donnellys became
known by that name is arguable. At different times, Miller also refers
to Johannah's swarthy features as being those of the 'black', or dark Irish, and relates
how the Donnelly's enemies described the family as "black Irish -
black inside and out".
above information is compiled from Orlo Miller's book,
'The Donnellys Must
is the original Donnelly
rumours abound as to what happened to the original Donnelly tombstone.
Like Elvis, it has been spotted all over Ontario, from St. Catherines
to Sudbury. Still others believe the stone lies buried beneath a shroud
of cobwebs in the basement of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church on
the Roman Line. So, what really happened to the old tombstone that had
the word 'murdered' inscribed
beneath each Donnelly name?
original headstone was erected in 1889 by William Donnelly, and stood
watch as a stone guardian over the Donnelly gravesite for 75 years.
Like today, the gravesite attracked thousands of visitors, who flocked
to the cemetery to see the famous gravestone. It is said that this
publicity, coupled with the damage to church property by overzealous
tourists, forced the parish priest to have the stone removed in 1964. A
new stone was erected by the remaining members of the family with the
omission of the offensive word 'murdererd'
that had created so much attention.
original tombstone ended up in a little town called Levack, about 40
miles north of Sudbury. According to Patrick Smith, a Donnelly
enthusiast who has studied the Donnelly story for over 45 years, the
headstone was brought to Levack by "William
and Nora Donnelly's grandson and granddaughter". One has since
passed on, and the other is in "very
poor health". As for the stone, it was placed in their garage in
two pieces, and is probably still there today.
descendent who has possession of the old tombstone doesn't wish to be
associated with his family's tragic history, so out of respect, his
name is being withheld. As for the future of the headstone, we can only
hope that maybe someday, the family in Levack will see the historical
significance of the original Donnelly tombstone, and perhaps donate it
to the Lucan Area Heritage Museum,
or the Donnelly Homestead,
so we can all enjoy it. The gravestone is a part of the Donnelly's
heritage, and should be donated to those dedicated to keeping that
a movie ever been made about the Donnellys?
leave coins on the
Movies, Docu-dramas, TV Shows...
To our knowledge, there is no motion picture about the Donnellys. There
are many writers that are working on screenplays in the hopes of making
a movie someday, so there is a lot of interest in doing a movie
project. But nothing has been done yet.
only video docu-drama that we know of is: 'Tragedy'.
Produced by Robert Gibbons, and written by Ray Fazakas, author of 'The Donnelly Album',
the docu-drama is based on the true story of the brutal murders of the
Donnelly family. Various locations such as: Lucan, the Donnelly
Homestead, Donnelly Schoolhouse, the Cedar Swamp Schoolhouse, St.
Patrick's Church and Cemetery, and the Roman Line, are visited and
described by Robert Salts, current owner of the Donnelly Homestead. The
video is one hour long, and can be purchased from Robert Salts through
this web site: Donnelly Online Store
A&E Home Video released a video in August 2001: 'More Haunted Houses: Tortured Souls & Restless Spirits'.
It is a collection of stories about five haunted houses which includes
the Donnelly Homestead. it is a fascinating video that offers
interesting information about supposed Donnelly ghosts that various
on-the-scene psychics claims to have seen. Althought the 100 minute
film is well done, some of the historical information regarding the
Donnelly tragedy is either incorrect, or missing. This video is
available on Amazon.com,
and can also be ordered through this web site. Donnelly
Why are coins left on the Donnelly tombstone?
our knowledge, Many people who visit the Donnelly gravesite have
noticed coins left behind on the headstone. Apparently, legend has it
that if you leave a coin on the Donnelly tombstone and make a wish, the
Donnellys will grant that wish. So, the next time you visit the
Donnelly gravesite, don`t forget to place a coin on the tombstone, and
make a wish. It just might come true!
We received an e-mail from someone who read a book about myths and
superstitions, and they said... another reason for leaving coins on a
tombstone is... if a ghost is haunting you, or if you owned someone
money before they died, the ghost will collect it, if you place the
money on the tombstone before midnight.
the Donnellys will
grant their wishes.
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